Feeling the heat

He points his heat gun at the rack, trying to suss out the data centre hotspots and determine load capacities. It's one of the many tools resellers can use to determine potential problem areas in the data centre before recommending appropriate power management solutions to help clean up the environment and deal with surging energy costs.

From brownouts and power surges to human error, the downtime at data centres can cost big bucks. Businesses need help dealing with high-volume, power-intensive data centres where energy costs are escalating.

"Just as old cars are not as fuel-efficient as newer models, the majority of the country's data centres are using a lot more energy than they should," APC general manager, Gordon Makryllos, said.

"Data centre health is important and needs constant monitoring. Resellers can help customers by doing an audit and vulnerability assessment."

As part of the audit, resellers can assess data centre layout, identify cable clutter under the floor and racks, check airflow, rack security and server protection.

"Capacity is doubling every 18 months, and it's not just CPU power but memory and storage. It keeps on growing," Makryllos said. "Over the next 10 years there's going to be a real issue in terms of power consumption and management."

Problem finding

In addition to heat guns, Emerson Network Power national product manager, Mark Deguara, said resellers could use software modelling programs in a bid to help customers ascertain problem areas in the data centre.

With the software, partners can do a data centre simulation of airflow, hotspots, the impact of blade servers and ramifications across the entire room. "Take a room, put racks in any location, determine the kilowatt requirement and see the heat dissipation," Deguara said. "Those are some of the things that can de analysed with the software."

Industry experts agree blade servers and the rollout of VoIP are pumping up power requirements and driving demand for power management.

"Blade servers put out as much heat as two domestic ovens," Makryllos said. "While we can do a lot more with less, the power demand is increasing."

The migration to converged networks demands a rethink of techniques and systems used to distribute power provision effectively and efficiently.

A review of back-up strategies and a new understanding of power distribution - along with its relationship to systems availability, power over Ethernet, VoIP, real-time performance and UPS configurations - is essential.

Given the growing pressures in the data centre, Makryllos said resellers need to go into an environment and offer a total solution rather than standalone UPS units.

"We need to think about power, cooling and environmental factors in the data centre," he said. "Manageability is a key part and takes into account the physical security via cameras."

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Precision cooling

On the cooling front, the traditional way to deal with heat and cooling issues was to stick an air conditioning unit in the room, or at the side of the rack. But Makryllos said cooling was needed in the row and wherever heat is being generated.

"It is expensive to cool the whole room," he said. "It is an ineffective approach for next-generation data centres."

Latest generation high density and variable density IT equipment created conditions that room cooling was never intended to address, resulting in cooling systems that were inefficient, unpredictable, and low in power density, he said.

Row-oriented and rack-oriented cooling architectures have been developed to address these problems. Makryllos predicted row-oriented cooling would emerge as the preferred solution for most next generation data centres.

"You may turn off the lights when you leave the company to save energy, but the data centre keeps on going," he said. "CIOs are more conscious of power demand and how to save power. Hot air can contaminate the data centre."

To further educate resellers, APC is funding and supporting data centre university, a vendor neutral education portal on power, cooling and the environment. The initial launch offers 14 foundation courses and 12 advanced courses that cover a range of subjects related to data centre design and management.

The university is aimed at IT professionals, engineers, facilities managers and anyone involved with the network critical physical infrastructure of the data centre.

Hot courses among partners include standardisation in the data centre, fundamental principles of network security, and advantages of row- and rack-oriented cooling architectures. Education of partners is imperative, but often overlooked since power management is still considered the domain of the engineers and not as sexy as other areas of technology.

The Uptime Institute has estimated 28 per cent of every dollar spent today in an IT data centre goes into infrastructure and energy costs. "In 10 years, it is estimated 85 per cent of data centre costs will go into power, cooling, and environmental monitoring. The trick is to detect anything with an electrical pulse," Makryllos said.

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Remote access

With UPS solutions evolving into sophisticated network power management tools, the technology can monitor and correct problems that might plague a once healthy network. And it can all be done remotely.

A UPS system needs to integrate cleanly onto the network and provide comprehensive, reliable remote management features without taking up a lot of space on the server.

Many of the solutions today feature automatic voltage regulation, generous runtimes and unattended systems shutdown. They can now monitor and restart critical services and operating systems if they fail.

Emerson's Deguara said remote management was becoming a top priority since many organisations had a host of branches and off-site operations. Interest started to pick up about 12-18 months ago.

"Companies are asking for more intelligence in terms of monitoring remote sites, and dealing with their power and heat issues," he said. "It's no longer just about power management in the main data centre but at remote sites."

Partners can pitch SNMP solutions which boost intelligence at the remote location. Emerson has seen a 15 per cent revenue increase in its remote management offerings during the past 12 months.

"Users can manage power at multiple sites, at individual or whole rack level, via an IP address," Deguara said. "Each power outlet becomes like a port. Users can monitor what's happening in the remote space.

"Offering intelligence at the remote site is vital. There's often no IT-based human resource at the site so IT administrators need to deploy the human intelligence out to the remote nodes. SNMP helps do that.

"Traditionally, remote sites have been dumb but we're changing all that. It's an evolving area of technology development."

There are opportunities for resellers in powering up remote locations as well as co-location facilities, he said.

"At both locations, determining the health of the network as it relates to power consumption is vital. The health might be okay, but there's no ability for spare capacity so investigate all the issues."

Remote management is the power buzz right now, according to Avocent managing director, Leanne Ramsay. The company has launched a solution that enables remote power control and system management of IT assets.

"Users can restore practically any IT asset, without dispatching service personnel, and virtually eliminate power control errors during crisis situations," she said.

The technology boosts remote site communications because each unit can be configured to sound an alarm during an overcurrent condition. They can send notifications via email messages, SMS pager messages and SNMP traps.

"Secure management of data centres, and remote sites, is a growing market for us," Ramsay said. "We are seeing more and more businesses look to power management in an effort to reduce operating costs."

Eaton Power Quality group marketing manager, Michael Mallia, said remote management and power related issues were now piquing the interest of IT managers. These technologies were moving out of the hands of engineers as product becomes more advanced but less complicated to manage. The company has launched a range of power quality meters that monitor, record and analyse critical electrical patterns.

"We're trying to enable data centre managers to get access to real-time information about power management in the data centre and at remote sites," he said.

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Remote management

By allowing the analysis of intricate patterns such as higher order harmonics, voltage fluctuations and transient over voltages, the technology helps operators run a more efficient, less costly business. It was vital to understand electric environmental conditions, pinpoint electrical problems and ascertain proper levels of power quality within the facility or specific equipment, he said.

Eaton is also rolling out a blade UPS, aimed at the SMB and enterprise space, which focuses on managing high heat loads in blades and racks. The company is setting up a distribution channel and previewing the technology to resellers.

Opti-UPS country manager, Greg Jan, said he was also waving the remote management flag and touting the latest improvements on the software front.

"Due to the interface of software changes to the browser base, remote management through the IP address becomes more popular and easier to use," he said. "The software interface is a new trend for UPS software. It provides better compatibility and ease of use."

The software can check input/output voltage and frequency, battery capacity, runtime estimation, unattended system shutdown and start-up, and multiple systems shutdown.

When all systems are connected to the same network, connected to UPS outlets and each has an IP address, the master computer can add all systems in its dependent shutdown list. If there is a power failure, the master system will command all systems in the list to shutdown before shutting itself down.

The next generation of UPS solutions include delta conversion technology, which should boost efficiency and reduce operational costs further.

"Moore's Law is hitting a wall. As more power is generated, we need smarter ways to power equipment. We need to cool it at the point of heat generation," Makryllos said.

Resellers pointing those heat guns and jumping into the power management game should look towards more advances in power and cooling.